TRURO – Charlotte MacQuarrie has a special feeling each time she enters First United Church.
She has a deep affection for the “centerpiece” in downtown Truro that has been a part of her life since the young age of about seven when she first started attending services there with her family.
“It’s a historic building, it’s in the centre of the town and it’s been important to the community,” she said.
It has been a place of worship for many families during the past century, as well as a place to socialize, sharing joys and sorrows as a community.
The Georgian-style brick building, topped with a 143-foot steeple and located on the corner of Prince and Young streets in downtown Truro, has earned both a municipal and provincial heritage site.
When it was first constructed its pews could comfortably hold about 1,000 people, however, over time several at the rear of the sanctuary were removed and it now has a capacity of about 800.
This week, the congregation will mark a special milestone, the 100th anniversary of the laying of the church’s cornerstone, along with launching a fundraising campaign aiming to preserve the structure for future generations.
On Sunday at 10:30 a.m., during worship, the congregation will pay tribute to the church’s rich history through the years from 1914 to 2014.
On Monday at 10:30 a.m., the congregation will officially mark the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone with a barbecue on the front lawn, pipe organ recitals, tours of the church and a symbolic planting on the grounds.
“I can’t imagine the town without it,” said MacQuarrie.
It’s her passion for the building, and the commitment of the entire congregation, spurring on the ambitious fundraising campaign, which will require about $3 million to complete.
“An initial $2 million, and that is just the basic restoration, so we would probably need another million for redesign and renewal,” said Rev. Valerie Kingsbury, who has served the congregation for the past three years.
She said there is a critical need for the funds; the church’s future depends on it.
“If the place is not restored, it will be, in a very short time, condemned and will no longer be serviceable to the congregation or the community,” said the reverend.
In recent years, the large glass arched windows along the sides of the church were braced to hold them securely in place.
“That was just to buy time before they need to be replaced,” said Kingsbury.
MacQuarrie is thrilled the congregation has endorsed the campaign, after a great deal of “soul searching” and discussion about the church’s future role in the community.
Not only will the building be restored, said the reverend, but their plans include a renewal and redesign to modernize the interior of the building to open it for greater use in the community, such as improving access to the washrooms, renovating the front of the church and the addition of a new audio visual system.
They invite the community to join them on this journey or restoration, renewal and redesign.
“It is an active, growing living body and restoration is a part of that path for the future,” said Kingsbury.
She added that many people have launched music careers that soared to international heights from the church. It has also been a place of cultural enrichment for the community and is an anchor in the architectural beauty of downtown Truro.
1770 – First church of the congregation was built near the Robie Street cemetery.
1853 – First church built on the corner of Prince and Young streets in downtown Truro.
1913 – Church burned down.
1914 – Cornerstone for the new church was laid and the parish was rebuilt.
1916 – Rededication was held March 15, 2016.
2014 – Celebration of 100 years in the church. Launch of a fundraising campaign to renovate and modernize the building.